Crowning Achievement

Nicolette Peloquin '17

Besides the crown she was adorned with on May 28 in winning the title of Miss Rhode Island 2017, there is little about the achievement that will go to Nicolette Peloquin's head. Like so much else the recent administration of justice graduate has accomplished during her four-year journey at Salve Regina, the experience simply adds more fuel for her ambition to help people.

As Miss Rhode Island, Peloquin wins a scholarship from Salve Regina to cover the costs of graduate school. She now goes on to compete in the Miss America pageant in September in Atlantic City, New Jersey, all while beginning online courses at the University of Massachusetts-Boston in pursuit of her master of education degree in school counseling. Ultimately, she plans to become a guidance counselor.

The pageants, she emphasizes, are not – as many presume – beauty pageants but are based in scholarship and service. She welcomes the additional exposure competing gives her in promoting her platform – Be the Match, which is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. A donor herself, she says her goal is to advocate for the mission and educate people on the importance of bone marrow donation.

Peloquin's journey to the Commencement stage – and to the Miss America pageant – hasn't been without its personal challenges. When she visited Salve Regina's campus for the first time from East Bridgewater High School in Massachusetts, she knew she was in the right place.

"I remember I was so excited because I got to meet the cheerleading coach, Dawn [Hahn] and some of the girls on the team and they were so nice and so inviting I knew this was going to be my home for the next four years," she said. Peloquin went on to serve as captain of the club during her junior and senior years.

But in the midst of her freshman year, she learned that her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Despite her family not being religious, Peloquin found comfort at Our Lady of Mercy Chapel. She took Catechism classes every Sunday with Anna Mae Mayer, director of the Mercy Center for Spiritual Life. "This was an opportunity to pursue that faith that I had been yearning for," she said. "I eventually got confirmed and I had my first communion.

"I'm so thankful and blessed to have had the religious journey I had joining the church here," she said. "Becoming a confirmed Catholic was an indescribable feeling."

This past March, Peloquin lost her grandfather to cancer. “Once again, it was that faith that really kept me grounded because it was a turbulent time," she said.

Academically, Peloquin found her home in the Department of Administration of Justice, knowing it would be a great challenge as a woman in a field that is predominantly made up of men. As part of her juvenile justice class with Dr. Robin Hoffman, she served as a mentor at Rhode Island Training School.

"I worked with an adjudicated youth teaching her life skills," she said. "I helped her obtain her high school diploma before she was released. I think I learned a lot more from the process than I could have ever taught her. It makes me incredibly thankful to have received the education that I have."

This past semester, Peloquin had an equally rewarding internship with Communities for People, a residential program for troubled youth. "I was out in the field working with kids that are in DCYF care, which was incredible," she said. "I helped kids get their licenses, taught them how to open bank accounts, helped them with school work and did life skills curriculum with them, too. It was incredibly impactful."

She credits much of her desire to help underserved youths to her mom, a kindergarten teacher in a sheltered English immersion classroom in Brockton, Massachusetts. "She works with a very diverse population and it presents a lot of challenges," Peloquin said. "I had the opportunity to substitute in that school system and that inspired me and made me realize that I want to continue to help children."

And she'll draw from a wide array of skills to do just that. "On the weekends, I perform as a Disney princess," she said. "I love to touch the lives of kids in different ways, whether it be helping them with a math problem or making a balloon animal or doing some magic tricks."

Read more about this program: Administration of Justice